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World Cup Briefs - Spain and Brazil set to shine

Published: 15 Jun 2010 - 10:40:17

As the World Cup slips into gear things should really gather pace over the next couple of days as we get our first sight of the two tournament favourites, Brazil and Spain.

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Dunga's men kick-off their campaign with an intriguing looking fixture against North Korea, surely the most inconspicuous team of recent World Cups, at Johannesburg's Ellis Park this evening.

The only nation to play in every Finals, it really doesn't feel like the World Cup until the golden shirts of Brazil have graced the field. Like their opponents, Brazil themselves are an intriguing story this time around.

Their play now reliant on the ability to defend in numbers and break out with bounds of pace and energy, relying on the ability of Kaka and Robinho to go past players and make chances for the likes of Luis Fabiano, Nilmar, and of course, themselves.

As you might expect this does not sit comfortably with the majority of the population who gave us 'Jogo bonito' but Brazil remain strong and very serious contenders for a record-breaking sixth World Cup.

Spain's odds fell even shorter after a comprehensive 6-0 warm-up win v Poland last week that produced six different goalscorers. The only dampener for Spain was an injury to Andres Iniesta (who was magnificent in his 39 minutes on the pitch), although this was relieved by the contribution of Barcelona prodigy Pedro, who created a comeback goal for Fernando Torres before notching his first international strike with an impudent flick over Tomas Kuzchak.

The country which gives us two of the giants of club football, Barcelona and Real Madrid, could be on the verge of their first World Cup - their best performance coming 60 years ago when they finished 4th in the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.

Their depth is staggering. So much so that you could make a claim that Spain take to South Africa with them the strongest squad ever seen at a World Cup. After years of soul-searching, the Spanish now have an identity to their football, cute intricate passing, a hive of off-the-ball movement and quick predatory strikers in the mould of David Villa and Fernando Torres.

A new weapon in their armoury which they did not possess when they won the European Championships two years ago are wingers that allow them to change their game plan if their narrow, inside thinking philosophy is being neutralised, in the way that Jose Mourinho stemmed Barcelona in the Champions League this season.

Of course, that is not so easily done in a one-off game and as the Italians found out in Austria, the Spanish are also capable when it comes to a penalty shoot-out.

Favourites for the tournament, Spain may never have a greater chance to finally lay their hands on the World Cup.

A New Germany

Even taking into account the opposition, Joachim Low's youthful Germany made an excellent start to their World Cup campaign in Durban's impressive Moses Mabhida Stadium on Sunday night.

Despite their presence at the moment, it is also a team very much for the future and the make-up of their forward thinkers heralds more than ever a new-look to their side.

Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, two players that seem to save their best for international football, both have Polish origins. The finesse and finery of a player really making clubs sit up and take notice in Mesut Ozil has his roots in Turkey, whilst Cacau, who marked his World Cup debut with his first international goal within two minutes of coming on, was born in Brazil. Mario Gomez, the only German forward to not get on the scoresheet on Sunday has a Spanish father.

The relaxation of dual nationalities and citizenships by FIFA and the cultural changes within the country has certainly benefited Germany. Now not only are Germany known for their efficiency but now the dexterity and ingenuity within their ranks.

Largely discounted by many ahead of this tournament, Joachim Low's side opened a few eyes in Durban.

A word too for the city of Durban, touted by many as the place to be during this World Cup. The city harbours hope of attracting the Olympic Games in the near future and sees the World Cup as the perfect springboard to launch its bid and sell their itself to the world.

The arch that overhangs the magnificent 70,000 capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium very much like the one seen at Wembley can also be used for bungee-jumping and a cable car service is available to take you up and over the facility. Local organisers have also located the 'Fan Park' on the beach and are using any means possible to give Durban the ultimate party atmosphere.

It's All a Load of Hot Air

Annoying, monotone, ridiculous. Just a few words I've heard to describe a piece of plastic giving headaches to millions worldwide over the last few days.

I've actually got used to it despite not liking them. Let's remember it is Africa's World Cup and despite it being a relatively new addition to football in South Africa, it has become part of their identity.

Unfortunately they drown other aspects of African football culture, such as the drums and dance from Ghana and Nigeria, but if FIFA decide to allow their use inside stadiums then let's get back to talking about the football.

Green Fingers

It was an awful mistake and one that Robert Green will have to put up with being asked about for the rest of his career. But let's move on for now, it happened, it has not cost England a great deal just yet and there is more than enough time and opportunity to make up for it.

And after all, who wins the World Cup after one game? No-one.

Africa and Its People Deserve Their Chance

Over the last few years there have been more disparaging voices about the location of the World Cup than ever before. For anyone who has been in front of a television over the last few days surely those thoughts have been flattened.

The sheer joy, excitement and pride felt by the African people has been incredible. This is a tournament that most Africans probably never thought they would ever have the privilege of hosting - many of whom live desperate and discomforting lives.

The scene shown by ITV on Friday afternoon from a tiny village that had electricity installed for the very first time so that the opening match could be projected onto a bed sheet for the locals to watch said it all.

Old men turned up not able to understand what they were seeing whilst people initially celebrated replays, having never seen one before and thinking their team, Bafana Bafana had doubled their lead.

People that would be lucky to hear football on the radio were able to get involved in the games biggest event being staged on their doorstep. Football has a unique ability to bring happiness into people's lives and the scene across South Africa on Friday afternoon has never showcased the point better.

Football and the World Cup belongs to the people of the world - not the greed of corporate conglomerates and directors. Africa, and its people deserve this World Cup, to have the chance to show everybody else the positive aspects of their continent, and you just know, they're having a hell of a time in doing so do.

DSG


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FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:andy bishop
Having worked in radio, newspapers, magazines, internet and television I hope to now bring my passion for the game to your computer screens with analysis, comment and tongue-in-cheek humour on all things global in the world of football - from Barcelona to Boca and from Blatter to Berlusconi...enjoy!

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